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Cephalalgia. 2018 Feb;38(2):374-382. doi: 10.1177/0333102416681570. Epub 2017 Jan 18.

Neck-Tongue syndrome: A systematic review.

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1 UCSF Pediatric Headache, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.
2 UCSF Child Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.
3 Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
4 University of California, Davis, Department of Neurology, Davis, CA, USA.
5 Univsersity of California, Davis, Pain Management Department, Davis, CA, USA.
6 Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
7 NIHR-Wellcome Trust King's Clinical Research Facility, King's College London, London, UK.


Objective Neck-Tongue syndrome (NTS) is characterized by brief attacks of neck or occipital pain, or both, brought out by abrupt head turning and accompanied by ipsilateral tongue symptoms. As the disorder is rare, we undertook a systematic review of the literature to identify all reported cases in order to phenotype clinically the disorder and subsequently inform clinical diagnostic criteria. Methods Two electronic databases were searched using the search term "neck tongue syndrome". All English language references were reviewed in full. Cases were abstracted using a standardized abstraction form and the references of the retrieved articles were reviewed by hand to identify additional references and cases. Conference proceedings from recent headache meetings were searched. We also report six new cases from our centers. Results There were 39 primary cases, 56% of which were female. Mean age (SD) at onset was 16 (12) years. Twenty (53%) experienced neck pain, seven (18%) occipital pain, and 11 (29%) both. Pain was most often sharp or stabbing and severe, lasting several seconds to several minutes. Eleven experienced numbness and/or tingling in the neck/occiput following the pain. Thirty-six had an accompanying tongue sensory disturbance and three a motor/posture disturbance; five had both. Thirteen had other headaches, and four a family history of Neck-Tongue syndrome. Conclusions Neck-Tongue syndrome typically has pediatric or adolescent onset, suggesting that ligamentous laxity during growth and development may facilitate transient subluxation of the lateral atlantoaxial joint with sudden head turning. Familial cases suggest a genetic predisposition in some individuals. Neck-Tongue syndrome should be re-instated in the International Classification of Headache Disorders.


Neck-Tongue syndrome

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